Projects Promote Life Change

Projects Promote Life Change
Daryl Dale

Projects are an effective means of helping teens apply biblical truths, develop Christian living skills and build group enthusiasm. The following chart illustrates the effectiveness of projects in comparison to other methods.

Verbal and visual Bible lessons are effective in building the knowledge levels of teens, but relatively ineffective in bringing about life change. This is because habits and skills are learned through practice. Life change is accelerated by projects that allow teens to practice in the class and in the community what they have studied. Practice sessions usually require a person to use his eyes, ears, mind, hands and entire body. Real-life experiences, however, have the added advantage of involving a person emotionally in the experience.

One’s concern for success in real-life experiences increases emotional involvement. When these experiences are planned as projects to conclude a short series of youth meetings, the motivational level in Bible study and practice experiences is increased. Practice and real-life experiences are basic to all effective youth training programs.

The Importance of Youth Projects

1. Spiritual Development The primary reason for initiating youth projects is that God uses them to cause young people to advance spiritually. Projects help young teens evaluate their priorities, study the Word of God, grow in their concern for others, develop Christian values and become involved in meaningful endeavors. Many projects encourage young people to take new steps of faith as they depend upon the Lord to do something that they have not attempted before. Young people are willing to take more spiritual risks and steps of faith when they are joined by other teens in the same project endeavor.

2. Motivational Learning Projects serve to motivate young people. Projects help a young person bring his Christianity out of the church and classroom and into the “real” world. Young people have lots of energy, and classroom situations alone do not provide sufficient release for that energy. Channeling energy into meaningful endeavors creates enthusiasm.

3. Skill Development Another reason for youth projects is that they assist teens in skill development. Teens often learn how to study the Bible, witness, set priorities, minister to others, speak publicly, resolve conflicts and build friendships through projects. Most skill development comes through repeated practice. Youth projects allow teens to practice Christian living skills in the company of other Christians. This Christian support group provides the young person with a “safe” learning environment where he is not afraid to practice new behaviors or develop new skills.

4. Relationship Enhancement Youth projects are also relationship builders. Relationships grow as youth workers and teens work side by side on projects. Working together on projects helps teens break through the relationship barriers of cliques and individualism. And, projects build unity within a youth group as teens take on a common spiritual endeavor. They learn to work with others for the accomplishment of goals that can only be done through team effort.

Two Types of Youth Projects

Two major types of youth projects are (1) service projects and (2) application projects. Service projects are designed to expose teens to people’s needs, expand their perspective of the work and allow them opportunities to communicate the gospel through words and actions. Service projects always involve young people helping other people. Several examples of service projects are: nursing home ministries, puppet shows, backyard children’s clubs, witnessing trips and hosting a community fair.

Application projects require young people to do something about what they have learned. Their purpose is to encourage youth to “live out” the truth in God’s Word. Too often teens, as well as adults, leave a teaching situation and think nothing more of the lesson. An application project is designed to stretch sometimes even force the learner into action, giving him the opportunity to put heart response into life behavior. The focus is primarily on personal growth. Application projects have an inward look, “I need to grow,” whereas, service projects have an outward focus, “What can I do for others?” The following are some examples of application projects:

-Keep a devotional diary
-Use a newly acquired Bible research skill to prepare a devotional talk for your youth group
-Attend a teacher training workshop
-Create a notebook depicting a week of one’s life in terms of emotional responses to situations and God
-Color code your Bible
-Lead a planning committee
-Be part of a prayer chain

Many projects combine personal growth, application and service. Therefore some projects planned to help teens have the added benefit of ministering to others. It is important to evaluate the success of each youth project in terms of its purpose. If the purpose is to help others, one must evaluate on the basis of how much help was rendered. If the project was to help the young person grow, success is measured in terms of how much the young person learned and the spirit in which he carried out the project. Some examples of combination projects are: parent-teen dialogue sessions, nursing home visitation, encouragement card writing and helping in junior church.

Principles for Successful Projects

1.Know the Project’s Purpose It is extremely important that the youth leader clearly understand what he wants the young people to learn through the project. The purpose could aim at skill development, biblical application or group unity. The project’s purpose should be written out in one concise sentence. Here are two purpose statements:
Teens will carefully read God’s Word by color coding their Bibles.
Teens will lead the Sunday evening church service and thereby grow in their ability to minister publicly.

2. Be Specific in Describing Projects The youth leader needs to answer these six questions if he is to be specific:

WHAT will we do?
WHY are we doing it?
WHO should be involved?
HOW will we prepare?
WHERE will it take place?
WHEN will it happen?

3. Make the Project Simple Youth projects should be challenging, but attainable. Young people need to succeed in their projects. Keep the project simple so that it will be a success and young people will have accomplished something.

4. Keep the Project Short Projects are one-time events. Ministries that are repeated monthly (e.g. visiting a convalescent center) are not defined as projects because of their longer duration. Young people prefer short-term projects. Three or four weeks should be enough time to prepare for and carry out most projects. When the preparation time for a project is stretched out, young people work hard on the project at the beginning and end, but leave the sponsor to worry during the intervening weeks. Get into and out of a project as quickly as possible and it will be more enjoyable to the young people.

5. Announce Projects Enthusiastically If a leader is enthused about a project, the young people will also be excited. Projects need to be attractive to the teens. Service projects are more exciting to young people than application projects. If a youth leader questions the receptivity of the young people to a project, he can present the project to a committee of young people for their comment and approval. Projects which allow young people to meaningfully help others are usually well received. Therefore, a biblical foundation needs to be established before an application project so that there is added spiritual motivation.

6. Follow Through on Projects Application projects often last several weeks. If young people are to color code their Bibles as a Bible reading application project, they will need to work on color coding daily for more than one week. Youth meetings may be focused on topics other than Bible reading before teens have completed their color coding project. Therefore the youth sponsor needs to mention the “in-process” project from week to week and display some of the teens’ work, if young people are to carry through on their assignment. Recognition of good work helps to motivate teens to finish their application projects.

The book, Getting People Done Through Projects, contains more than 50 youth projects. Each of these projects is described in detail. See order form on last page of this manual.

The above article, “Projects Promote Life Changes” was written by Daryl Dale. The article was excerpted from Dale’s book Youth Work’s Manuel.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”